Centre weighs stock limit on tur, chana to tame prices

  • The stock limit norms will be in place till the monsoon season ends and as the harvest of kharif crops begins in October

Puja Das
First Published22 Jun 2024, 11:48 AM IST
Prices of pulses have been rising for over a year. Image: Pixabay
Prices of pulses have been rising for over a year. Image: Pixabay

New Delhi: The Centre plans to impose stock limits on tur (pigeon pea) and chana (Bengal gram) until September amid persistent concerns about a spike in pulses prices due to crop failure widening the demand-supply gap, according to two officials.

The stock limit norm, which is likely to be in place till the monsoon season ends and as the harvest of kharif crops begins in October, will be applicable for all trade entities, including millers, retailers, big chain retailers, importers and wholesalers across all states and union territories.

The government had earlier asked private big chain retailers to declare their pulse stocks twice a week, compared to once a week for other entities. In April, the government made stock disclosure of all pulses, including imported yellow peas, mandatory once a week for importers, millers, stockists, traders, and processors to prevent hoarding.

Prices of pulses have been rising for over a year. In Maharashtra’s Solapur, tur prices have surged to 11,100-12,250 per quintal, while chana prices in Delhi's key markets have reached 7,075-7,175 per quintal. These prices are significantly higher than their minimum support prices (MSPs) of 7,000 and 5,440 per quintal, respectively, according to spot traders.

In the retail market, the all-India average price of tur dal was 161.3 a kg, an increase of 25.6% year-on-year while chana was 88.2 per kg, up nearly 18% on year, as per data available from the consumer affairs ministry on Friday.

Though the headline inflation fell to 4.75% in May from 4.83% in April, the lowest in a year, food inflation, which accounts for nearly 40% of the overall consumer price basket, remained unchanged. It was 8.69% in May and 8.70% in April. By comparison, it was 3% a year ago. Inflation in pulses specifically moved up to 17.1% in May from 16.8% a month ago and 6.6% a year ago.

Production of pulses, especially tur (kharif) and chana (rabi or winter), has fallen for two consecutive crop years (2022-23 and 2023-24) because of unseasonal rains in October 2022, deficit rainfall during the monsoon season and prolonged dry spells in major growing states throughout last year caused by El Nino.

Curbing price rise

The union government has taken several measures to arrest soaring prices, including imposition of stock disclosure and stock limits last year and allowance of duty-free imports of yellow peas but to no avail.

“We have proposed stock limits on tur and chana, and it could be in place till the end of September if approved by the concerned authorities," one of the officials cited above said. “The stockholding limit on wholesalers could be 200 tonnes for each pulse, 5 tonnes for retailers, 5 tonnes for each pulse at each retail outlet and 200 tonnes at depot for big chain retailer. For millers, the limit will be production of last three months or 25% of annual installed capacity, whichever is higher.”

“Importers will not be allowed to hold imported stock more than 45 days from custom clearance,” the person added. “If they are found to have stocks more than the prescribed limits, they will have to dispose of the over and above quantity within three weeks from the notification issuance date.

The government has been suspecting hoarding by pulses traders for some time, the official said. 

“The impact of yellow pea imports must be reflected in chana prices and tur prices to some extent but that has not been the case. The market and the price trend indicate supply tightness of chana, resulting in lower procurement by Nafed and higher purchase by private agencies. Either there is a problem with production, or people in the trade are manipulating the market," the official said.

This is likely despite officials in April visiting mandis, mills and warehouses across producing states to crack down on hoarding, in line with the effort to raise supply and stabilize prices, the other official said.

Production estimates

According to the government, tur production in the 2023-24 crop year is estimated to be at par with the previous season’s 3.3 million tonnes (mt) but the industry expects production to be 2.7-2.85 mt, falling short of the domestic consumption of around 4.2 mt. 

The government pegs chana production at 11.57 mt against last year’s 12.26 mt and domestic consumption of 10 mt. However, the trade estimates chana production lower from the government’s estimates at 8.5-8.7 mt.

In 2021, the government had imposed stock limits on tur, urad (black matpe), masur (lentil) and chana and in 2023 on tur and urad.

Queries sent to secretaries and spokespeople of the agriculture and consumer affairs ministries remained unanswered till press time.

Also Read | Cabinet approves increase in MSP of 14 kharif crops for 2024-25 season

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First Published:22 Jun 2024, 11:48 AM IST
HomeIndustryAgricultureCentre weighs stock limit on tur, chana to tame prices

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